Barrett Wins as Podlesni Clinches Title in Sonoma

Just 10 days after celebrating his 17th birthday, Pat Barrett, from Los Osos, Calif., made a stunning professional racing debut by winning both of this weekend’s Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Hankook races at Infineon Raceway.

The other big winner to emerge from the NASA (National Auto Sport Association) event was 18-year-old Robert "Poodles" Podlesni, from Thousand Oaks, Calif., who scooped a pair of podium finishes to secure the coveted championship crown with two races remaining next month at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. "I wish I could have won [one of the races] but we were going for the championship," said Podlesni, who had claimed victory in four of this season’s first eight races with Dave Freitas Racing’s #84 Alpinestars/Terminal Velocity Van Diemen. "That was our goal for the weekend, so we go home happy."

Barrett’s G.FRO teammate Philip Metzger, also 17, from Littleton, Colo., set the pace in the opening qualifying session on Saturday, securing the first pole position of his young career in the #29 Sovereign Energy/PM Motorsports Van Diemen. Metzger’s advantage was short-lived, however, as Podlesni got the jump at the start. Farther around the opening lap, Barrett, who qualified third, also found a way past the pole-sitter, then set his sights on Podlesni.

Pat Barrett leads teammate Phillip Metzger Saturday at Infineon Raceway
(Photo by Head-On Photo

The top two exchanged positions a couple of times within the first four laps before Barrett made his escape to ensure a glorious debut in the #33 Go-Pro Camera/Russell Racing/Kolliner-Long Gallery Van Diemen RF05. "Track knowledge was a big advantage," admitted Barrett, who recently clinched the Infineon Raceway-based Formula Russell Championship (and the Rookie of the Year Award) by virtue of a record-equaling 10th win of the season from just 14 starts, "but it’s certainly a good feeling to come out and do so well at this level."

Metzger also found a way around Podlesni to secure the first-ever one-two finish for Geoff Fickling’s G.FRO team. Podlesni hung on for third ahead of veteran Tim Harris, from Irvine, Calif., in Ray Stephens Racing’s #20 Apex Fire Systems/Carson Trailer/Mihms Truck Repair Mygale SJ05.

Harris’ teammate Shaun Modisette, 19, from Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., made it four teenagers in the top five after a steady run in the #26 Carson Trailer Van Diemen, while another Jim Russell Racing School graduate, Todd MacNaughton, made the trip from his home in Hawaii well worthwhile by taking sixth in the Bill Wilson Motorsports-prepped #8 Goto Construction Van Diemen. The three youngsters again dominated the proceedings on Sunday, this time with Podlesni starting from the pole, flanked by Metzger and with Barrett lurking menacingly on the inside of the second row of the grid.

Podlesni got away well to maintain his advantage on the opening lap, but he quickly came under increasing pressure from the impressive Barrett who had usurped Metzger for second at Turn Two. On lap four, Barrett took advantage of Podlesni’s inferior exit to the Turn 11 hairpin, then drag-raced his rival along the curving start/finish straightaway before completing the pass in expert style at Turn Two. Podlesni set the fastest lap of the race in his pursuit of Barrett, but the debutant’s second win in as many days was assured when the race finished under caution after Nick Haye’s #4 PR1 Motorsports Mygale SJ05 became stranded at the apex of the tricky Carousel turn with a broken left-rear stub axle.

Metzger’s hopes of another podium finish evaporated when he attempted to pass Podlesni on the outside of the Turn 11 hairpin but succeeded only in making light contact with the wall which necessitated a quick pit stop. Harris was the primary beneficiary, finishing third and reclaiming second place in the points table from the unfortunate Haye, from Huntington Beach, Calif., who had run a strong third for much of the race. Scott Rarick, from Santa Monica, Calif., had retired from the Saturday race with a puncture but bounced back the following day to finish fourth in the unique #34 Piper DS5. MacNaughton rounded out the top five.


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